by Lewis Carroll





       Girt with a boyish garb for boyish task,
         Eager she wields her spade: yet loves as well
       Rest on a friendly knee, intent to ask
           The tale he loves to tell.

       Rude spirits of the seething outer strife,
         Unmeet to read her pure and simple spright,
       Deem, if you list, such hours a waste of life,
           Empty of all delight!

       Chat on, sweet Maid, and rescue from annoy
         Hearts that by wiser talk are unbeguiled.
       Ah, happy he who owns that tenderest joy,
           The heart-love of a child!

       Away, fond thoughts, and vex my soul no more!
         Work claims my wakeful nights, my busy days-
       Albeit bright memories of that sunlit shore
           Yet haunt my dreaming gaze!


  IF- and the thing is wildly possible- the charge of writing nonsense
were ever brought against the author of this brief but instructive
poem, it would be based, I feel convinced, on the line

     "Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:"

In view of this painful possibility, I will not (as I might) appeal
indignantly to my other writings as a proof that I am incapable of
such a deed: I will not (as I might) point to the strong moral purpose
of this poem itself, to the arithmetical principles so cautiously
inculcated in it, or to its noble teachings in Natural History- I will
take the more prosaic course of simply explaining how it happened.

  The Bellman, who was almost morbidly sensitive about appearances,
used to have the bowsprit unshipped once or twice a week to be
revarnished; and it more than once happened, when the time came for
replacing it, that no one on board could remember which end of the
ship it belonged to. They knew it was not of the slightest use to
appeal to the Bellman about it- he would only refer to his Naval Code,
and read out in pathetic tones Admiralty Instructions which none of
them had ever been able to understand- so it generally ended in its
being fastened on, anyhow, across the rudder. The helmsman* used to
stand by with tears in his eyes: he knew it was all wrong, but alas!
Rule 42 of the Code, "No one shall speak to the Man at the Helm,"
had been completed by the Bellman himself with the words "and the
Man at the Helm shall speak to no one." So remonstrance was
impossible, and no steering could be done till the next varnishing
day. During these bewildering intervals the ship usually sailed

  * This office was usually undertaken by the Boots, who found in it
a refuge from the Baker's constant complaints about the insufficient
blacking of his three pairs of boots.

  As this poem is to some extent connected with the lay of the
Jabberwock, let me take this opportunity of answering a question
that has often been asked me, how to pronounce "slithy toves." The "i"
in "slithy" is long, as in "writhe"; and "toves" is pronounced so as
to rhyme with "groves." Again, the first "o" in "borogoves" is
pronounced like the "o" in "borrow." I have heard people try to give
it the sound of the "o" in "worry." Such is Human Perversity.

  This also seems a fitting occasion to notice the other hard words
in that poem. Humpty-Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one
word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all.

  For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious." Make up
your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which
you will say first. Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts
incline ever so little towards "fuming," you will say
"fuming-furious"; if they turn, by even a hair's breadth, towards
"furious," you will say "furious-fuming"; but if you have that
rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say "frumious."

  Supposing that, when Pistol uttered the well-known words-

     "Under which king, Bezonian? Speak or die!"

Justice Shallow had felt certain that it was either William or
Richard, but had not been able to settle which, so that he could not
possibly say either name before the other, can it be doubted that,
rather than die, he would have gasped out "Rilchiam!"

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